It Is What It Isn't

On the return of Love Island, Uma Thurman in the Lightning Thief, and the first recorded sighting of this year's second-place celebrity couple.

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My favourite part of the series openers is when a boy doesn’t get picked and it’s just silence amongst the girls. (Until they have to ruin it by letting the boy choose).

One of the things I miss most about being in England is watching Love Island with my friends. That being said, a lot of the time we watched it On Demand anyway, only able to see it live in the last week of the show. I have a fond memory of sprinting from Roosters Hut to a friend’s house because we were so close to missing the show, but realised we could’ve caught it on ITV2+1 an hour later. This cultural phenomenon that’s stirred up more controversies and tragedies than it can manage returned on Monday the 28th. It reminds me that television can still be a communal experience.

I love it when Love Island is on. The group chats are scorching, the memes are hot, and everyone else’s takes are lukewarm like when your hands are adjusting to the temperature of the tap water. I look forward to the live reactions from Twitter faves Jack Remmington, Chante Joseph, and New Girl historian & celebrated author Bolu Babalola. I love that we can both engage in zero critical thinking and have intelligent pieces like this all the while that oontz oontz theme song thumps in the background. Love Island’s return feels like a national (well, International in my case) holiday. It should be a national holiday. Feliz Love Island to all observing this year, Love Island Kareem.

To me, nothing will ever live up to Series 4 and 5. From Megan dumping Eyal to Curtis wanting to be the first person to wake up and make everyone a coffee instead of giving Amy a cuddle, to Anna pulling out the finger guns at Jordan for her iconic You’ve Got A Girlfriend storm, those two seasons were, como se dice, built different. There was something in the water, and it wasn’t COVID-19 thankfully. The pandemic certainly has given the show renewed interest and its fans a lot more fervor.

It’s actually insane to me how even during a global outbreak, where many industries have taken massive hits, lives have been lost, and governments fumbled miserably, Love Island is still going. This reality show is still in production. It’s happening, and we’re witnessing it. I think a lot of us were hoping this summer will bear some resemblance to Summer 2018, where Love Island and the World Cup were experienced concurrently since the Euros are airing at the same time this year. 2018 was definitely not as rough as the last year and a half has been, but the desire for a little respite courtesy of watching people play games—of the heart and of Ted Lasso fame—is just as strong.

What makes the consumption of this show even more communal is how social media factors into it. Thankfully the people I follow and interact with have their heads screwed on straight and realise that it’s not that deep, but I’ve seen some people open their mouths and literally say anything!1 Without an iota of shame! But that’s what Love Island brings out in us. It’s like The Purge, but instead of all crime being legal for 12 hours, it’s 6 to 8 weeks of uninhibited commentary.

Anyway, let’s get into the season opener. As per the show’s format and longstanding tradition, the new contestants arrive waving their hands in the air in a top-down Jeep. We first meet Kaz (26, Essex) and Liberty (21, Birmingham). I’m obsessed with both of them. I’m obsessed with Kaz’s talking head introduction where she says she just wants a guy to rail her. I hope she and Liberty grow to be fast friends. I think what I loved most about the 2019 Season, aside from the drama, of course, was the friendship between the girls. They had their little groups, sure, but those group dynamics made the drama more fun to watch and was definitely refreshing in a show that pits people against one another for money and romance.

The next arrival in the villa is Sharon (25, Oxford), who is adamantly against men in white jeans with an ego, and rightfully so. I think she’s hilarious. I found out Sharon was not only Miss International UK in 2018, but she’s also half-Indonesian. Let’s go kakak! Let’s go neng geulis! Come on bule girl! Let’s go Pulau Cinta! I feel like I’m obliged (I know I’m not) to root for her. I also found out that people were shocked that her name is Sharon. Like, someone in the 90s named their kid Sharon. Her mum is Indonesian, the decision to pick “Sharon” does not surprise me.

I struggle to remember the other contestants’ names, apart from Shannon (who I think is super pretty and her name sounds like Sharon’s) and Brad (26, Northumberland) who LI 2019 winner Amber Rose Gill had to translate for on her social media accounts:

She wasn’t going to let him go down as a Libra from North London, and I respect that. (Also I miss her! She’s my elected official! The only time I ever voted in Britain was for Love Island!)

The boys are dry this season. Someone sprinkle an iota of personality, pray the Heavens to open up and rain down some excitement onto that villa in Mallorca. My favourite part of the whole episode was how not one, not two, but three boys received crickets when Laura Whitmore asked the girls to step forward. Not a single one of those boys are giving what Ovie and Destiny’s Chaldish (Michael, Danny, Jordan) were giving in 2019. At least they knew how to keep the cameras entertained.

Perhaps, I am being too harsh. It is, after all, only the beginning of the series. There’s Toby, who could be ridiculous to watch because he plays for a social media football club—something I didn’t know would ever be a sentence I’d type out—Hashtag FC, and “has been single his whole life”, he says at 22. This man will embarrass 22 and 23-year-olds everywhere. We’re embarrassed by ourselves enough as it is. Toby also said he’s in a lot of DMs, to which my beloved Amber responded:

I got a text from recurring guest star on the newsletter, Chenai, the other day about how she found a TikTok from a girl whose PE Teacher is the contestant on the show. She has yet to find that TikTok again, but when she does, I’ll pop it in next week.

Speaking of this Teacher Guy, Hugo, my wife and first-time Hyperfixate Special Guest Star Kristina had this to say and honestly, nothing has made me laugh harder:

I also thought it was really funny that Jake was filming Toby sucking Kaz’s toes and then asking what they tasted like. Nah. I’m not having it. I’m not a fan of toes, I don’t really have anything to think about anyone else’s proclivity for toes, but they caught that man in 4K filming something for his own personal … collection? Needs? Sports half-time playback review? Nah. No. Nein. No más.

Then came the inevitable Love Island bombshell which the show brings in after everyone’s coupled up to shake things up. But from that speaking-in-cursive, welcome to my kitchen voice note, I’m not sure if the bombshell is bombshell-ing right now. I’m not sure if she’s even giving shell2. I’m not sure if this Chloe is Villain Edit material just yet because she hasn’t instigated anything so far, and her digs at Hugo are getting a little repetitive. They’re mean, but not in a fun way. I miss Molly-Mae. I miss Maura. Those were the days, man, when the bombshells were bombshell-ing. But again, it’s still early days. And you can’t really write off any of the girls yet when they haven’t been given the opportunity to really shine. I often catch myself trying not to pass judgments on these random people I don’t know despite how we’ve all gotten so used to consuming whatever persona they’ve been told to invent, which is what makes reality TV so precarious lately in the first place, especially given Love Island’s track record with contestant and host post-show care.

In the immortal words of Olivia Rodrigo: God, it’s brutal out here. It really is brutally grueling watching some of their one-on-one chats, at least amongst the couples. I don’t know if we’re all just expecting too much or the casting directors were letting Too Hot To Handle get all the fun people, but I feel like this high expectation is indicative of the state of the dating pool feels sometimes. I know, wow what a reach, Ari! Life imitates art vs art imitates life and all that.

One thing that really bothers me about this season, and I’m aware I’m writing this before the third episode airs and it’s still early days, is how lazy the editing has gotten. There has been a lot of talk surrounding the ethical role of editors in reality television, and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean you should prolong a reveal two episodes in the making with a very underwhelming cliffhanger. Shows like this are just as scripted as any fictional hour-long HBO drama, and maybe this is the stuck-up screenwriting major in me, but if you want to keep your audience invested, get to the dang point. Why was I watching the second episode all the way to the end if we weren’t going to find out who Chloe was going to pick? I want to know if Shannon will be free from Aaron! I want to know if she’ll do a complete 180 on Mr. Ofsted! I’m not gagging, I’m not shocked, I’m not invested, but I’m willing to give Love Island: Pandemic Edition the benefit of the doubt.

I’m excited to get sucked3 into reality TV again. I’m excited to get sucked into British reality TV again. And I’m never excited about British anything! Not unless it’s Andrew Lincoln getting his British passport and COVID-19 test results all the way out to Senoia, Georgia to shoot that damn Rick Grimes movie, or you lot giving me another damn visa4!

The errant British-ness of Love Island is what I find so entertaining; the polite, friendly introductions juxtaposed against lockdown horniness and repressed British sexuality, people from Essex asking other people if they’ve been to Essex, asking someone to go for a “chat”, “grafting” all day—this show has everything. I’m also so, so excited for Casa Amor this year. That’s where shit really starts to hit the fan. I’m hoping for chaos. For carnage sans Venom. It’ll be great. Incredible. Sensational. A grand ole time.

Again, I’ll save the unpacking and analysis of the show once the season is over. I wish I had something smarter to say right now, but alas, it’s not the time. It’s just time to just enjoy a little chaos. It is what it is.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman’s Scalp

Like many film majors, I’ve gone as Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction for Halloween. It was one of the first films I saw Uma Thurman in. And she was great. I don’t have a Uma Thurman story, but my friend Fil does. When I worked at a certain indie cinema in Central London, my friend Fil had to introduce Thurman to an audience before a screening. I can’t remember what the film was or how long she was there, but I remember Fil saying something might have gone wrong with the mics and it all working out in the end anyway. It’s not much of a story. But Uma Thurman was there.

Whenever I do think of Thurman, though, I don’t picture her as Mia or as The Bride from Pulp Fiction: I see her as Medusa from Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

Medusa has a small role in this film, but a crucial one nonetheless (though many will go to bat to argue with me on this.) Percy (Logan Lerman) and his friends Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) arrive at Aunty Em’s Garden Emporium in New Jersey, a garden statuary shop in New Jersey in search of one of Persephone’s pearls to help them on their mission to save Percy’s mum (thee Catherine Keener) from the Underworld and clear Percy’s name after he’s been accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolts. Aunty Em turns out to be Medusa, living amongst her garden statues that were once living, breathing human beings. Medusa was cursed with a head full of snakes and the ability to turn whoever looked into her eyes to stone.

Thurman dons a leather jumpsuit and sunglasses. Her snakes are hidden in a headwrap. On her wrist, she wears Persephone’s pearl as part of a gold cuff. One of the elements I loved most about reading Percy Jackson growing up was how Greek myths were re-imagined for the 21st century. The idea that Medusa would just be in New Jersey selling statues of people she’s frozen is kinda camp.

What I find super camp though, is that Percy uses the reflective surface of an iPod Touch (so 2010, I’m obsessed) to fight Medusa without looking her in the eyes. I actually don’t remember what he does in the books, but the way it was shot in the film just spread the biggest smile on my face. It’s so ridiculous but it works so well. I’m obsessed with this shot:

Right after this, Percy decapitated her. There’s something very comical but so mundane about a very powerful mythological creature holding something you could play Angry Birds on and probably has an illegal download of a DJ Earworm United State of Pop mix. It hits a spot for me. It hits thee spot for me. It fulfills my bizarre obsession with the part of my youth that hasn’t even been gone for that long. I wish I could explain further.

The Not So Many Trailers Of The Many Saints of Newark

Gabagool Mubarak besties! Ahead of The Many Saints of Newark aka the Sopranos prequel film starring Michael Gandolfini and current Hyperfixate crown prince Jon Bernthal, HBOMax has released a trailer. I am obsessed with it. It’s colour-graded like Twilight (2008), they used James Gandolfini’s voice in the beginning, and Jon Bernthal does what he does best: show up for a split second looking fine as hell.

Recipients of the White Boys of the Decade Lifetime Achievement Awards

What will Hollywood do now? Why haven’t Dylan O’Brien and Logan Lerman been cast in anything together? As brothers? As best friends? Lovers? Enemies? I kind of need both of them to do the Fuck You Flipflops monologue from The Social Network just to square off. What kind of stars need to align for this legendary communion of the white boy blueprints to grace me with their presence like that? I keep forgetting that these two know each other. And I’m glad the Universe provided such a gracious reminder of that fact.

Munnlaney

When I heard John Mulaney was going out with Olivia Munn, I didn’t know what to make of it because it’s not any of my business. It’s still not any of my business. I like Olivia Munn, I think she’s hot and funny, and her cameo in that one Funny or Die sketch starring Alison Brie and Dave Franco lives in my head rent-free.

John looks healthy and I’m happy for him. I hope he’s okay. But this image is like the comedy equivalent of Bennifer to me. Perhaps not Bennifer, but Rita Ora and Taika Waititi in the sense that it came out of nowhere but I also sort of get it.

I’m sure someone out there has coined a better name for the couple but I thought Munnlaney was funny. Johlivia? Mulunn? Olivijohn? I can’t come up with anything better.

That’s all for this week!

1

I’m just being kind of petty here without being explicitly petty, some people reply to things that they had no business replying to and it really grinds my gears. It’s usually cis men trying to be “edgy”. Why do men stick their noses in business that is not theirs?

3

I didn’t mean for this pun to happen.

4

That lady with the £77,000 eyebrows could be reading this. I should be careful.